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Musical World

Jason Eckardt

  • Composer
  • Teacher


Jason Eckardt press reviews

"Jason Eckardt clearly rejects the argument, made with increasing frequency, that the mid-20th-century atonalists were working toward a musical dead end. Harmonically and rhythmically his music thrives on complex, constantly changing relationships, but like many composers under 40 (he was born in 1971) he tempers the more prickly, jagged elements of the post-tonal style with humor and eclecticism. What holds your attention in his music is not its ingenuity but its relentless energy and drive.

"He also has a knack for defying expectations. Drawn to Minimalist sculpture — Richard Serra’s "Tilted Arc" adorns the CD cover, an allusion to the opening work, "After Serra" (2000) — he resists using the Minimalist musical vocabulary to evoke it. That resistance eventually evaporates, at least partly. The final four minutes of the score is an eerie stasis of slow textural shifts and quietly scampering solos over sustained tones. But that comparative serenity is hard won, coming after 10 minutes of vigorous, high-energy counterpoint. The most ambitious work here, the 2-movement, 27-minute "Polarities" (1998), also begins with an eventful, virtuosic opening section that gives way to quiet spareness. But the proportions are reversed; here the slow, introspective writing is the center of gravity."

- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"Mr. Eckardt's ['Aperture'] could pass as a score by one of his elders: he writes in the eclectic style that has become the modernist lingua franca, to the extent that there is such a thing. His melodies are spiky and bristling with energy; his rhythms are sharply defined and attention-grabbing; and if his harmonic language draws freely on dissonance, it is accessible and seductive. Its most striking moments were its vibrant clarinet writing, deftly played by Brent Besner.

"But Mr. Eckardt also knows how to use silence effectively (and affectingly). The final section, revisiting a notion touched on in passing earlier in the work, juxtaposes silences, pianissimo rippling at the top of the keyboard and short bursts of harsh but muted string timbre. The more extroverted writing at the start of the work seemed calculated to put the listener on edge, but as it turned out, the quieter finale accomplished that more thoroughly."

- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"Mr. Eckardt's language is at once sophisticated and simple, his 'A Glimpse Retraced' being centered on a brilliant, fragmented, irregular piano toccata that kept disintegrating into scales, with imposing solo interventions for violin, piccolo, clarinet and cello."

- Paul Griffiths, The New York Times

"Just as, in architecture, postmodernism has evolved into a generic, suburban mess, and echt-modernism is being reexamined by serious observers, this music of complexity appeals more and more to those us of bored by the pabulum of so many of the neotonalists. This is not a debate of isms. For thoughtful listeners, there is good stuff being written in a variety of styles. But it is very refreshing to hear new music written in a polytonal, serial framework, albeit not in a doctrinaire, Schoenbergian manner. Eckardt certainly does write in a complex way, throwing out furious washes of notes, now exploding in knuckle-full blasts of energy, then subsiding into mysterious cascades of quiet polytonality."

- Peter Burwasser, Fanfare

"At 32, Jason Eckardt was the youngest composer represented. His piece 'After Serra,' a musical response to the sculpture of Richard Serra, moves toward a reconciliation of uptown and downtown. The inspiration and much of the extreme, almost experimental sonic character come from downtown, the language and craftsmanship from uptown."

- Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

"Sometimes music can leave you speechless -- all sorts of speechless. After an inattentive first listen, 'Out of Chaos', the new CD of chamber music composed by Jason Eckardt, left me with a what-the-hell sort of speechlessness.... Needless to say this CD was just too hard to ignore.... You might stumble, as I did, during your first encounter with Eckardt's hyperactive uber-expressiveness. But as your senses enjoy being overwhelmed and you begin to relax into Eckardt's stringent music, try to refrain from analytical listening and simply enjoy the beautiful flow of morphing timbres.... While I understand Eckardt's connection to the dwarfing and disorienting feeling evoked by the huge, monolithic steel sculptures by Richard Serra that inspired 'After Serra', I sense a closer affinity in his music to the sculptures of Sarah Sze: giant aggregates of sprawling material that jettison against the laws of gravity and pixilate into tiny, intricate worlds that lay awaiting discovery entirely separate from the whole." [ complete review ]

- Randy Nordschow, New Music Box

"Eckardt deliberately plays with ideas of structure and timbre, leaving the listener disoriented at times. This is not an unpleasant experience. For example, there are moments of haunting, ethereal textures paired with moments of exhausting, driving activity. Passive listening simply will not do." [ complete review ]

- Christopher Chaffee, American Record Guide

"[Eckardt's works employ] drastic changes on the musical surface that create a profound structure."

- Anna King Murdoch, The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

"[Eckardt's music] explodes in violent outbursts of intensely controlled contour and rhythmic pulse bringing to mind the figuration of Berio, the gestures of Boulez and the spontaneity of Coltrane."

- Michael Gallope, Oberlin Review

"In the meatiest segment of the program, pianist Jason Hardink wondrously plunged through Jason Eckardt's 'A Glimpse Retraced,' a work that exploded like spontaneous combustion, pushing the instrument to its extremes with pungent dissonances, improvisatory rhythms remarkably cued with the ensemble and an often spread-eagled virtuosic technique."

- Jane Vranish, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"....if one composer comes to mind on listening to the opening ensemble work 'After Serra', it's Varese. (Maybe filtered through Birtwistle.) Strong gestures, recognisable contours and vivid contrasts define the music at every level. 'Tangled Loops', performed by Nonken and soprano saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, namechecks Parker (Charlie, not Evan this time), Coltrane and Dolphy, and is perhaps closest to the latter, in its dramatic and dogged pursuit of the interval. It's a killer piece, and must be a bitch to play -- hats off for Sullivan. Pianist Nonken is no slouch either as performers go, as PT readers may well remember, and 'A Glimpse Retraced' is a chamber concerto for her and flute / piccolo, clarinet, violin and cello. Proof that there's plenty of life left yet in the old Pierrot line-up, it's also the most accessible piece on the disc, alternating tough angular lyricism -- Birtwistle once more comes to mind -- with an exploration of extreme register as chunky and funky as mid 70s Ligeti.... ['Out of Chaos'] is as strong and solid as Richard Serra's 'Tilted Arc', a photograph of which adorns the cover." [ complete review ]

- Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic

"Jason Eckardt's 'Echoes' White Veil' [features] dazzling outbursts of quasi-improvisatory energy."

- Graham Lock, BBC Music Magazine (UK)